Today's news

July 18, 2006

University lecturers accept pay deal
University lecturers have voted to accept a 13.1 per cent pay deal from employers, despite almost a third of those who responded to the ballot not backing the offer. The University and College Union today released the results of its ballot, which asked members if the union should accept the employer's current pay offer. More than half of all ballot papers issued were returned and 71 per cent of members voted to support the offer of 10.37 per cent over two years with a minimum of 2.5 per cent in the third year, which will accrue to 13.1 per cent over that time frame. However, there were protest votes from lecturers who felt the union ended the dispute too early, with 29 per cent (10,036) indicating they did not want to support the offer from the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association.
The Guardian

Rammell unveils partnership scheme with Africa
The higher education minister, Bill Rammell, has announced a £3 million partnership between universities and colleges in England and sub-Saharan Africa. Speaking yesterday during a two-day visit to Ghana, Mr Rammell said: "The Commission for Africa highlighted the importance of education at all levels from primary through to higher education. In an increasingly competitive global economy, it is crucial that more young people across Africa are able to gain skills and qualifications through good quality higher education. "One year on from Gleneagles, we want to show our commitment to helping strengthen capacity in African higher education by investing £3 million in a scheme to fund higher education partnerships between England and Africa."
The Guardian

Brunel's 40-a-day habit stubbed out by university
Isambard Kingdom Brunel's 40-a-day cigar habit is held responsible for some of the greatest triumphs of British engineering. Unfortunately, it also represents an upturned middle finger towards the politically-correct mandarins of modern academia. With this in mind, Brunel University has removed the famous stoogie from a new, life-size statue of the eminent Victorian. The bronze is based on the National Portrait Gallery's iconic photograph of Brunel standing next to the launching chains of his ship, the SS Great Eastern, in 1857. It was unveiled last week, revealing a close likeness, but - to the annoyance of Brunel fans, historians and the smoking lobby alike - no cigar.
The Independent

State-of-the-art fertility clinic to be created in £1 million upgrade
Aberdeen University and NHS Grampian yesterday announced ambitious plans to create Scotland's most advanced fertility service in the city. Work will begin in September on a £1 million upgrade of the facilities at the Aberdeen Fertility Centre to create a state-of-the-art laboratory, which will be the first in Scotland to meet rigorous new standards set by the European Union for the treatment of patients. The refurbishment work is expected to last six months. But the centre revealed yesterday that arrangements have already been made to bring forward treatment for IVF patients, entitled to NHS funding, in an attempt to keep disruption to a minimum.
The Scotsman

Scheme to protect student housing deposits delayed
Students risk losing their deposits for university housing after the start date for a long-awaited tenancy deposit scheme was postponed for a further six months, the National Union of Students warned yesterday. The Government is to make it mandatory that any landlord demanding a deposit from a tenant must safeguard that deposit under a tenancy deposit scheme. The scheme was meant to be introduced this October but has been pushed back to April 6 next year. Landlords and their agents in England and Wales hold deposits worth more than £800 million but there is nothing to regulate how much is charged, how the money is held, or what arrangements are made for its return, leaving tenants unprotected.
The Guardian

Radio wand to reduce dangerous patient stitch-ups
A deadly type of surgical error - accidentally leaving sponges inside patients - could be eliminated by waving a special type of wand over the patient's wound, according to researchers. They have invented special medical sponges containing radio frequency identification chips - a technology currently used to find lost pets and track food items in stores. Doctors will be less likely to accidentally leave these sponges inside surgery patients, suggests their new study. Previous studies have suggested that doctors make this mistake in about one in every 10,000 surgeries in the US. And in the year 2000 alone, experts estimated that nearly 60 US patients died as result of this error.
New Scientist, The Scotsman, Nature

Plasma bubble could protect astronauts on Mars trip
A bubble of plasma could shield astronauts from radiation during long journeys through space, researchers are suggesting. If the idea proves viable, it means heavy metal protective panels could be replaced by a plasma shield of just a few grams. Astronauts travelling beyond the Earth's orbit would be at risk of cancer and other illnesses due to their long term exposure to cosmic rays. Some of these energetic particles are spewed forth during outbursts from the Sun. Others come from outside our solar system and are more mysterious in origin. The Earth's magnetic field protects spacecraft in low Earth orbits, such as the space shuttle and International Space Station.
New Scientist

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